Hackworth, Union eager to mimic Houston's approach in finding way to postseason

...Union know Houston find a way to be in MLS' playoff picture

Have a glance at some of Houston's recent results and you might find yourself scratching your head.

You don't expect to see a Dominic Kinnear-coached team lose 4 to 1 at home to New York, or receive a 5-0 plastering at the hands of Montreal.

But that's the type of form they've been in lately.

Houston travels to PPL Park this Saturday with three losses and one draw in four previous MLS games. Missing players through injury and international duty, the Dynamo are slogging through September with a misfiring Will Bruin and a struggling backline. Just like Philadelphia, it's been a rough stretch, but playoff position is still right there for the taking.

"This game means a lot to both teams," Union manager John Hackworth said on Wednesday. "Both are coming off difficult results and both are in a position where we're fighting for playoff spots. This game is a literal six point swing, so this game becomes huge for both clubs."

It looks bad on the surface but this is what Houston does every year.

Flying relatively under the radar, Kinnear's teams will string together results throughout the Summer and eventually level out in the Autumn months. Last year, they snuck into the playoffs as the fifth seed. In 2011, they needed four wins in five games to sneak past Philadelphia, Columbus, and New York into the second seed.

On both occasions they rode that late season push right through the playoffs and into the MLS Cup Finals.

So, when some teams see a struggling Houston, Hackworth sees it from the opposite direction.

"I look at Dominic Kinnear teams and I think every year he finds a way to get his team ready," Hackworth said. "That's why he's been one of the best coaches in MLS for as long as he has. We know we're going to get a very different Houston team than what we saw this past weekend. They get a couple of guys back from injury. Brad Davis comes back from the national team. it will be a drastically different team that we see versus the team we saw against New York."

Houston returns Jermaine Taylor and Oscar Boniek-Garcia from international duty along with Davis, the team's captain and most experienced player.

At the same time, the status of Corey Ashe, Andrew Driver, and Ricardo Clark is uncertain.

"We know they're well coached, and they have a bunch of guys who have been in pressure packed situations and they've found a way to make the playoffs and then make good runs," Union midfielder Brian Carroll said. "They've had guys who have been there and who have performed and done that. We have a couple of guys on our team who have done that and have been there before too. It's just about us keeping the entire group going forward in a positive way and playing the best we possibly can. If we do that, I think we'll have a good chance to get a good result in Houston on Saturday." 

Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at k.kinkead@hotmail.com